If you want to explore an area by road but the idea of a coach trip makes you shudder, then why not hop behind the wheel and be the master of your own time: you set the itinerary, decide when and where to stop – and how often – and have autonomy over the CD player. Here are our top tips on planning a memorable road trip.
- Which way? So you’ve decided whereabouts you would like to explore but the question now is: which road do I take? Without local knowledge you could quite easily make a beeline for the least characterful district so find a good online route planner. If you’re touring the UK, the RAC’s planner gives you the option to choose between faster and shorter routes and allows you to enter up to ten stop off points. In Europe, www.viamichelin.co.uk will guide you to the most scenic route, the most economical and those best for motorcycles.
- Get someone to do the hard work for you. For some people, half the fun is in the mapping of your route, but for others it presents little joy. But this doesn’t mean a self-drive holiday is off limits – just find a company who specialises: Belle France, for example, plans picturesque routes and enchanting accommodation for tours featuring French gardens, vineyards and coastal islands.
- Taking your own vehicle? Make sure you give your car some love before hitting the highway: check tyre pressures and treads, oil and water levels. If you are going abroad, display your GB sticker clearly as failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine. Check with your car insurer that cover extends to being abroad. Check too that your breakdown cover still applies; if the car grinds to a halt, you will be grateful for 24-hour English-speaking assistance.
- Don’t get conned by car hire. In 2013, the European Consumer Centre saw a 37 per cent rise in the number of complaints about hidden hire charges and inflated insurance bills. Ignore pressure to buy the hire company’s ‘collision damage waiver’ (CDW) and organise your own through an independent insurer at a fraction of the cost. Don’t assume it is cheaper to hire car seats or sat-navs, take close-up photos of the car before and after as insurance against any false claims of damage, and scrutinise anything that is added to the basic package.
- When in Rome… Local driving laws and equipment requirements vary from country to country. The AA’s website is a great source of advice on driving abroad, with country specific information on speed limits, lights policy (did you know it’s compulsory to use dipped headlights during the day in Denmark?), seat belts, and which equipment you must have in your car.